We get frequent questions about some health craze that is bombarding the public through media programs and advertising. Right now it is osteoporosis.
I watch these presentations on television, aware of the erroneous recommendations for treatment and shudder to think of the harm caused by suggesting that people use artificial calciums to produce bone density when it will actually worsen the condition. I, of course, am helpless to do anything about it.
On one occasion while lecturing to cancer patients, I mentioned that the use of inorganic calcium such as dolomite, processed eggshells, Tums or other artificial calcium could cause bone porosity instead of correcting it. A woman came up to me after the lecture and said that that was exactly what happened to her. Her doctor, trying to protect her from bone loss, was responding to the unqualified information about calcium and prescribed calcium supplementation.
Finally, two wonderful letters appeared in Medical World News (9/12/88) written by Neal D. Barnard, M.D. of George Washington, University Hospital of Washington, D.C., and H. Robert Silverstein, M.D., of Hartford, Connecticut, responding to an article printed earlier in Medical World News (6/27/88), “Call for Building, Preserving Bone Mass Intensified.”
Both Dr. Barnard and Dr. Silverstein are critical of the present treatment for porosity and blame the loss of bone mass on high protein in the diet. Dr. Barnard quotes research studies to validate his views. One was a report by Dr. B. Lawrence Riggs of the Mayo CLinic. Dr. Riggs measured bone densities and calcium intake in women for several years and reported, “We found no correlation at all between calcium intake and bone loss, not even a trend.” Dr. Bernard also quoted a summary in Summary (August 1, 1986) “the large body of evidence indicated no relationship between calcium intake and bone density.” He also faults the consumption of large amounts of dairy products as not improving osteoporosis but increasing’ cholesterol which can contribute to atherosclerosis and the use of dairy products also adds to the concentrated protein.
Dr. Silverstein and Dr. Barnard both suggest a low protein and high fiber diet.
Dr. Silverstein raises the spectre that Western medicine tends to treat one disease while simultaneously creating other diseases. He suggests that while treating osteoporosis, it would be better if we use approaches that will also prevent diverticulosis, obesity, hernia, heart attack and stroke, diabetes, gallstones, hiatus hernia, cancer of the colon and breast, etc. He says “why not prevent all of these diseases by eating foods that are high in fiber; modest in protein; and adequate in calories, vitamins and minerals rather than recommending the low-fiber approach of a diet high in dairy foods?”
Dr. Silverstein proposes foods like whole grains, beans, the known high-calcium vegetables such as collards, kale, Chinese cabbage, mustard and turnip greens, buckwheat, endive, scallions, watercress, bok choy, and other green leafy vegetables high in calcium
Yes, why not? The diet is similar to the one used by cancer patients to avoid a recurrence .of cancer. It could be considered a program to prevent disease or simply to maintain or regain a condition of wellness as well as a reduction in bone loss and improved bone density.